To­tal’s Dole buy to be as­sessed in July

Irish Independent - - Business - Gretchen Frie­mann

THE Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion is due to de­cide by July 16 whether to wave through To­tal Pro­duce’s €260m pur­chase of a stake in US ri­val Dole, in a deal that could lead to the cre­ation of an in­dus­try be­he­moth with com­bined sales of €8bn.

The Ir­ish-based fruit and vegetable dis­trib­u­tor un­veiled the ac­qui­si­tion of a 45pc slice of Dole, which is con­trolled by 95-year old bil­lion­aire, David H. Mur­dock, in Fe­bru­ary of this year.

The trans­ac­tion re­quires reg­u­la­tory ap­proval from both sides of the At­lantic but To­tal Pro­duce’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Rory Byrne, had voiced fears the EU com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog could de­lay the deal’s con­sum­ma­tion un­til the end of the year.

A reg­u­la­tory fil­ing, how­ever, shows the ac­qui­si­tion will be as­sessed next month.

If the deal re­ceives the green light from reg­u­la­tors, To­tal Pro­duce, which dis­trib­utes more than 400 mil­lion car­tons of fresh pro­duce an­nu­ally and op­er­ates 146 op­er­at­ing fa­cil­i­ties world­wide, and Dole chair­man Mr Mur­dock, will run the par­tially merged en­tity as a joint ven­ture.

To­tal Pro­duce, which was spun out of Fyffes in 2006, and is chaired by Carl McCann, has the op­tion to move to full con­trol of Dole within five years.

How­ever the Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany, which ranks as the big­gest ba­nana dis­trib­u­tor in its do­mes­tic mar­ket, re­mains sad­dled with $1bn (e860m) in debt and posted a net loss last year of $16m.

Be­fore delist­ing, Dole off­loaded its pack­aged foods and Asia fresh pro­duce busi­nesses to Ja­pan’s Itochu Corp for $1.7bn, shrink­ing it­self by a third, to help pay off its banks.

To­tal Pro­duce Chair­man Carl McCann

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